Discrepancies between statements from the mother of a local student murdered in Tallahassee and information provided by Leon County Schools (LCS) raises questions about how LCS accounts for students that seek to withdraw from school and the subsequent impact on graduation statistics.
TR reported on March 29, 2019, that Godby High School had the highest number of homeschool students in Leon County with 231. Previously, TR also published a report that showed 33% of homeschool students were not in annual compliance.
According to the Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Accountability Coordinator Ashlie Kraft, if a student is withdrawn from a traditional high school, like Godby, into homeschooling, the traditional high school’s graduation rate is not adversely affected if that student never graduates.
However, according to Shelly Bell, Director of Career, Technical and Adult Education at LCS, if a student is withdrawn to seek his GED, it does adversely affect the high school’s graduation rate.
In a February 27, 2019 Tallahassee Democrat story, LCS Spokesperson Chris Petley stated that Cobi Mathis, a teenager who was shot and died on February 25, 2019 in a day care parking lot “was a student at Godby up until January when he disenrolled and went into homeschool.”
However, Mathis’s mother, Varshawndyna Pleas, says she never considered homeschooling and she withdrew him in mid-February to attend Lively to get his GED.
Pleas was referring to Adult and Community Education (ACE), located on Lively’s campus.
Pleas said she wanted her son to remain at Godby and graduate, but he wanted to get his GED.
“Cobi was never homeschooled,” Pleas said.
“I didn’t want him getting a GED. I told him ‘You’re going through a rough patch now but what about later when you’re older and want a career and all you have is a GED?’” she said.
She said Mathis had attendance problems and so she reluctantly agreed to “transfer” him to Lively. She said the high school never pressured her to withdraw Mathis. It was his idea.
Pleas said Mathis was attending Godby just a week or so before he was to attend Lively. She said he was withdrawn after a school holiday, which, according to LCS’ 2018/2019 academic calendar was Presidents Day on February 18th.
“Cobi was supposed to start at Lively the day he was shot (Feb. 25th),” Pleas said.
Bell confirmed that a student could withdraw from high school and be in ACE on Lively’s campus a week later, if the student attended orientation during that week.
Tallahassee Reports contacted Petley about the discrepancy between his statement and Pleas’ recollection.
Petley said although it is LCS’s policy to not disclose where students attend school, (It is not public information, per FDOE), he confirmed the information in the above statement to the Tallahassee Democrat because the reporter already knew Mathis attended Godby. Petley said he believed he (Petley) originally got the information for that statement from the Godby principal.
TR then asked Petley to double check the date Mathis was “disenrolled” and if he was withdrawn to homeschool.
Petley said according LSCs student information system Mathis was withdrawn the first week in February, not January and acknowledged his mistake in saying in the Tallahassee Democrat story it was in January. That date still conflicts with Pleas’ recollection.
Petley, again confirmed Cobi Mathis was withdrawn to homeschool.
Tallahassee Reports is seeking more information from LCS.